New Belgium – Loft Pale Ale

New Belgium LoftLOFT MIGHT HAVE been better named Lost. The veteran of various presentations, this light summer ale was designed for low-calorie easy drinking, retired after a few seasons, saw its recipe tweaked for a rebranding (now Skinny Dip), and now comes back in Folly Packs for a limited time. Maybe the hope is that the company of others will help disguise its patchwork frame, for Loft is as fickle as the winds that hold its kite aloft. In playing lager and ale qualities against one another it never quite soars to success, nor even the middling glide of a California Common (e.g. Anchor). It has the sudsy head, high carbonation, and distinctly mineralic aftertaste of a lager, but the butterscotch hues, caramely midsection, wheat-smoothed mouthfeel, and spiced citrus overtones of ale. Kaffir (the lime, not the racial epithet) is evidently the X-factor additive, and it does give the back end an extra zip that’s difficult to articulate before learning what kaffir actually is. Alcohol of 4.2% gives the finish a mild slickness but is not present in the flavor. Hops (Liberty and Sterling) are gently floral, a little citric, and suitable to a light summer seasonal, though it’s difficult to say where the Sterling hop ends and the kaffir begins.

Another twist in the twine is the label’s suggested serving temperature of “3°C (38° F)”. Aside from the question of a U.S. brewer bracketing Fahrenheit instead of Celsius, the suggested temperature itself is quite unusual: such a frosty nadir is almost exclusively reserved for the adjunct lagers that somehow think ice-cold temperatures and their deficiency of calories are marketable qualities. So it is clear that New Belgium aimed for a quaffer straight out of the cooler, perhaps hinting vaguely at the American Pale Wheat category without running straight into that category’s established heavyweights. Alas, their efforts to keep it ‘craft’ (i.e. talking up its mouthfeel and using Southeast Asian spices) end up confusing the palate. Better to have tried their hands at an improved lager–a quick lineup inspection suggests a scant couple amidst dozens of ales–that would have responded better to these chilled service and mild objectives. As it is, Loft simply tried too hard for too little.

Served: 12 oz bottle best by Nov 03, 2013

Rating: 73

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